Returning from our road trip down the Baja Peninsula in May, we were driving past the coast of the Sea of Cortez when our eyes were drawn to several pretty coves where RVs camped by the calm, turquoise water and children played with beach balls while music played on radios and adults lounged under palapas with picnic food in hand. Curiosity piqued, we turned off the highway into one of these RV camps, and were surprised to meet a fellow cruiser that we knew swimming to shore with his daughter, their boat anchored out not too far away from our parked car. He told us that we were in Conception Bay, a protected sailing destination with a dozen small beaches on which palapa style huts had been built by expats who come to visit in the American winter months. We were charmed, and promised ourselves that we would return by boat as soon as Monsoon was put back in the water.
Fast forward 2 months later, we finally dropped anchor in Conception Bay. By now, it was the height of summer, and most cruisers were avoiding the windless and boiling hot bay like the plague. Heated up by the surrounding land mass, the air was 95 degrees Fahrenheit everyday, with water at 90 degrees, thus not helping much to cool the boat hull down. Inside, Monsoon became an oven, with temperatures reaching 106 degrees even with all hatches open and fans turned on. Sweat dripped from our faces constantly as we started seriously contemplating the possibility of giving ourselves water poisoning from the amount of water we had to consume. We had heard of other cruisers stocking their boats with powdered Gatorade, or limes and sugar for limeade, to combat electrolyte loss, and solemnly vowed to come up with a hydration game plan for the rest of summer.
The prime cruising spots in Conception Bay are centered around a group of coves collectively known as Coyote Bay. Here, we stopped in Playa Santispac and Playa El Burro. Despite the amount of people enjoying the beaches here, it is still a little far from town, so lacked reprovisioning opportunities or cell signal. For a boat that lacks air conditioning and refrigeration, our tactic for cooling down involves swimming for as long as possible during the hottest hours of the day. During one of these swimming sessions, I dove down to the sandy bottom below our boat and was pleasantly surprised to find large clams sitting on the sand, an easy catch for novice fishers such as ourselves. Our plan for being productive in the early morning and late night however, was not as successful as we would have liked it to since sleeping at night was hard, even though we tried sleeping in the cockpit.
Braving the heat one day, we decided to wake up early and attempt to find some petroglyphs that are scattered on a hiking trail on the north hill of Playa El Burro. Unfamiliar with the location of the trailhead, we bumped into a crowd of locals who took to Rowan immediately, helped us find our trail, and left us with a gift of two homegrown mangoes. As the sun rose higher into the sky, we abandoned our search of petroglyphs, content instead with coming across red rocks rich in iron that sound like bells when struck.
Needless to say, we were in Conception Bay during the wrong time of the year. This place holds so much more potential that has been squandered by our basic need to stay cool and hydrated. One of the things that I was looking forward to was natural hot springs that are found around Coyote Bay, not an option in summer, not even at night. Sailing out of the bay with our cockpit cover still up and towels hung everywhere to shade us from the sun, we hightailed it to Isla San Marcos, a small island 40 miles away where we hoped some thru breeze will help cool us off.
Isla San Marcos hosts an active gypsum mining facility, which sometimes puffs white dust onto boats anchored nearby. Coming in to the anchorage here is made tricky by having to traverse a shallow channel with currents that can be strong. Eyes peeled for signs of dangers, we slowly motored our way thru the pass, watching nervously as our depth meter counted down to as shallow as 18 feet. GPSes are prone to be inaccurate in this part of the Sea of Cortez, so even with safe transit coordinates provided in cruising guides, we can never be sure that we are exactly where think we are. Thankfully, our passage was a safe one, and we were treated to the spectacle of marine life abundance found around steep sea drop offs such as this one, catching glimpses of needlefish flying thru the air on our bow, schools of rays slapping the water with each jump, and even a hammerhead shark, the first shark that we have seen in real life.
On the island, we caught up with fellow kid boats Xpression and Avalon, and had a great time gathering for a long drawn out dinner, exchanging sailing stories and watching the kids play together. The boys on Avalon provided fish freshly speared in the nearby reef, and I was glad to introduce the South East Asian tradition of home fried prawn crackers. It is always great to meet other cruising families, as boat kids get along easily regardless of age or gender, and are smart and confident enough to be just as comfortable talking to the adults. As night fell, we were entertained by unbelievably bright bioluminescence in the water, by which we could make out the shapes of fish hunting one another.